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Mathematician: Is Our Universe a Simulation?

shmert Heresy? (745 comments)

Denying that we are in a simulation seems a bit like pre-Galileo conventional wisdom claiming that the Earth was the center of the universe. What is so special about this universe of ours, besides the fact that we're in it?

If a well-financed team of humans could create a simulated "universe" in a computer with sufficient complexity that evolved beings in the simulation exhibit "intelligent" characteristics, then that seems like a good bet that someone could have done that for us. It actually seems much more plausible than the other alternatives. Wait, what are the other alternatives again?

about a year ago

Fighting Fires With Beams of Electricity

shmert Re:If this were a 1930s pulp magazine story (137 comments)

How about a 1980's Subgenius Pulp Story?

From "Bob and The Oxygen Wars"


I couldn't quite believe he was aiming us right into the fire. He sure
  didn't look suicidal, but whatever he had in mind was beyond me.
  At last he grabbed the mutated gearshift. I managed to keep one eye
  on his hands as the wildfire bore down on us. Now we'd see something.
  The conical hood omament suddenly pronged forward, stretching out
  through a widening hole until it looked like a robot anteater snout.
  Then it shot out a brilliant sky-blue stream of some glowing, crackling
  liquid unlike anything I'd ever seen, all over the onrushing flames.

  "Great Zot! What is that stuff?"

  "Condensed space-juice. Supercooled fresh-squeezed electron fluid.
  Trees can't bum under a high negative charge."

  There was a lot more of it firing out from under us through that
  nozzle than we could possibly have room for in any concealed tanks.
  "Where's it all coming from?"

  "We draw it in as needed, and crush-cool it on the spot. No one misses
  it; there's at least ten to the ninety-fourth watt-seconds per cubic
centimeter, everywhere in space, including space full of matter. The primary
  carrier wave of the physical universe is around sixty octaves
  higher than an electron's diameter." He switched hands, kept blasting
  away and pointed at a spot on the spectrum chart in the upper zone
  unknown to me. "The higher the frequency, the greater the energy
  density. Establish resonance with space-juice itself and you can obtain
  virtually unlimited power."

  The sizzling, metallic turquoise liquid was spreading out incredibly
  fast wherever it hit, engulfing the flames in big round patches. It
  sounded like a cross between distant artillery and huge sails flapping in
  a gale as it rolled out over the blaze. The stuff went from shiny to
  blurry, and expanded into thick mats of blue-white fog, as if to cool and
  soothe whatever might survive of the forest.

  We tilted around the western rim of the burned area, mopping up
  several hot spots missed by the main volley. The pulses of juice didn't
  follow exactly smooth trajectories but seemed to crackle slightly as if
  along lightning discharge paths.

  The otter didn't appear to be even remotely scared by all this. He just
  stood resting a paw against my seat, watching and making chortling

  I found my voice again, "Is this another one of those suppressed

  "Not exactly; this one really was a bit ahead of its time. Liquid
electricity doesn't have many useful applications until you make available
  a virtually unlimited electron supply. The basic idea was developed by
  a guy named Richard Diggs back in the late seventies, though he didn't
  foresee this embodiment at the time."

more than 3 years ago

StackOverflow For Any Topic

shmert Good job, too (191 comments)

StackOverflow is really impressive, and useful. I find myself adding "site:stackoverflow.com" to google queries when I'm troubleshooting some code problem. If there's an answer on there, it's almost always better than the answers on other sites. With none of the horrible multi-page answers, scribd paper, navigation hell that plagues other sites.

Great idea to branch this into other areas, but I wonder how many dedicated users you'll see like jon skeet when it comes to a parenthood advice website.

more than 4 years ago

Visualizing Complex Data Sets?

shmert Palantir (180 comments)

I don't use their product but http://palantirtech.com/ makes a data visualization tool and has a good blog about it, with some interesting Java dev tips thrown in. It might be overkill for the data discussed in the article summary, but sounds pretty badass.

One really interesting blog article http://blog.palantirtech.com/2008/12/12/vizweek-2008-report/ talks about something called the "VAST Interactive Challenge", which as near as I can tell is a competition for data visualization tools to go head-to-head against each other. (Side note - wouldn't it be cool if more software frameworks/applications had shootouts like this?)

The blog article talks about how they had 30 minutes to train an analyst that had never used Palantir, and then 2 hours for the analyst to explore the data. It's an interesting read, and makes you realize how useful a really good tool like this could be for finding trends in raw data.

about 6 years ago

No Space Porn (For Now)

shmert Re:MSNBC did a report on this subject back in 2006 (260 comments)

I recall reading recently that astronauts on board the space station complained about not being able to get an erection. At all. Reduced blood flow due to zero-g might put a hamper on your porno plans. Now zero-g girl-on-girl is probably possible, and in the end a lot less messy.

more than 6 years ago


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